‘Underfunded’ Durand spends more than £200k on legal fees

Academy trust’s financial accounts say Durand was in talks with the Education Funding Agency over the termination of its funding agreement

An embattled academy trust that is fighting the Department for Education’s efforts to end its funding – and claims it has suffered “underfunding”spent more than £200,000 on legal fees last year, its latest accounts show.

Durand Academy Trust (DAT), which operates a primary phase on two sites in south London, as well as a boarding site, St Cuthman’s, in West Sussex, has been at the centre of controversy over the pay of former headteacher Sir Greg Martin (pictured), and concerns about conflicts of interest in its complex management structure.

It has had a long-running battle with the Education Funding Agency (EFA), which announced last October it was going to terminate Durand’s funding agreement. The trust says, in its accounts for 2015-16 – published on the Companies House website today – that it has been underfunded by the EFA.

The accounts also reveal that DAT spent £209,911 on legal and professional fees in 2015-16, compared with £164,533 the year before.

Its spending on unspecified “other governance costs” increased to £233,818 in the same period, up from £94,102 the year before.


Durand Academy should be in special measures

Inspectors wrote that Durand is “failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education

Durand Academy, the controversial school already battling government attempts to terminate its funding agreement, is “inadequate” and should be placed in special measures according to a draft report accidently published on Ofsted’s website.

In the report, which appeared online on Wednesday night, the inspectorate rated the primary school in Stockwell, south London – which has a boarding site in in West Sussex – as inadequate on eight out of nine subheadings.


BBC News

Controversial boarding academy loses latest planning bid

THE South Downs National Park Authority has refused to give permission to erect temporary teaching and boarding accommodation to an application made by St Cuthman’s School, in Stedham.

The SDNPA felt the proposed accommodation and classroom structures would have an unacceptable visual impact on the surrounding landscape character due to its scale and appearance as well as on adjacent listed buildings.

The planning authority stated there was no clear and convincing justification or public benefits for the proposals or the loss of the Coach House.

Anne Reynolds, from Woolbeding with Redford Parish Council, Stephen McGairl from the St Cuthman’s Campaign Group and Eddie Lintott, from Stedham with Iping Parish Council, each made speeches on behalf of the local community against the application. Durand Academy did not provide anyone to speak in support of its plans.

Hazlemere Herald

Bid to expand Durand’s boarding school is rejected by planners

Planning committee deals another blow to Durand

Troubled academy trust Durand has suffered another blow after a planning application that would have allowed it to expand its boarding school was rejected.

Members of the South Downs National Park Authority’s planning committee yesterday turned down Durand Academy’s application for temporary buildings for 48 students and two teachers at the Durand Academy Boarding School in Midhurst.

It is yet another setback for the trust, which was last month hit by the Education Funding Agency’s decision to withdraw its funding after it refused to comply with demands aimed at reducing potential conflicts of interest.


More woes for Durand Academy: planning application rejected

Plans for temporary classrooms and a boarding house at the Durand Academy’s weekly boarding school in Stedham were thrown out by the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) today (Thursday, 10 November 2016).

Planning committee members said with little evidence of a long term masterplan, they were concerned about allowing ‘utilitarian’ temporary buildings in a sensitive setting.

Durand wanted to demolish the listed Coach House and replace it with a two storey prefabricated boarding house. It also wanted to put two single storey teaching blocks on hard surface sports courts for 48 more pupils in years 9 to 11 for five years while longer term plans were developed Three objectors to the proposal at the former St Cuthman’s School spoke, but there was no-one from Durand to support it.

Midhurst and Petworth Observer

Low cost boarding? Full price boarding school syndrome?

Saddle your steed, Sir Greg Martin, overpaid superhead, and gallop out of our schools.

Fiona Miller writing in The Guardian. Article includes references to the low-cost Durand academy boarding school in Sussex: “[…] the trust had bought and opened a low-cost boarding school in West Sussex. This school still lacks the planning permission needed to adequately educate its secondary age pupils, who are bussed in each week from Lambeth, south London..

Durand Academy Trust boarding school to close?

An academy chain is facing closure after the Education Funding Agency (EFA) announced it was terminating the group’s funding agreement.

The Durand Academy Trust (DAT) runs an infant and junior school in Stockwell, south London, and a boarding school for older pupils in Midhurst, West Sussex.

The EFA said it had serious concerns about the financial management and governance of the trust.

TES News

BBC News

Mail Online

Schools Week

Concerns raised over new Durand boarding head’s conduct case

Parent withdraws pupil after high-profile trust hires leader still facing questions over role at previous school

The embattled Durand Academy Trust has recruited a head of boarding for its controversial rural school who is subject to a professional misconduct hearing, TES can reveal.

The hearing is related to Grant Taylor’s former role at another boarding school, which is subject to allegations of sexual bullying between pupils. His appointment at Durand’s West Sussex boarding school (pictured) has prompted at least one parent to raise concerns and withdraw their child, TES understands.

The news comes as the South London-based trust – already notorious for previously having one of the highest-paid heads in the country – continues a legal battle with the government over governance concerns that could result in its funding being withdrawn.

Doubts over financial viability

Durand Boarding School in West Sussex, England’s first free boarding school, has previously faced planning battles and doubts over its financial viability. Companies House records show that its previous head of boarding, Hakim Taylor, left on 12 September.

His replacement, Grant Taylor, who shares a surname but is no relation, taught at another boarding school mired in controversy – Stanbridge Earls School near Romsey, Hampshire – up until its closure in 2014.

Stanbridge Earls, for pupils with special educational needs, had been subject to a string of allegations of sexual abuse and bullying between pupils, including allegations of rape. A report published last October by Hampshire Safeguarding Children Board found that girls at the school were not “adequately protected”.

Mr Taylor worked at Stanbridge Earls at a time when serious instances identified by the report took place.

The report quoted NSPCC documents stating: “From the papers that we have, we believe that teachers in the school may have failed to take action in relation to sexual abuse [by pupils].”

In a separate but well-reported incident in 2013, pupils were taken to an outdoor pursuit centre in Scotland where they abseiled naked.

Ongoing investigation

Mr Taylor, along with the former headmaster and deputy headmaster of Stanbridge Earls, faced a three-day preliminary professional conduct hearing held on 8, 9 and 12 September by the National College for Teaching and Leadership. The subject of the hearing is not known.

It is understood that he was not subject to any police investigations himself, and TES has not seen any evidence to suggest that Mr Taylor was personally involved in the events identified by the NSPCC or the Hampshire Safeguarding Children Board reports, or in the events at the outdoor pursuit centre.

His roles at Stanbridge Earls included head of sport and house master, until he was appointed deputy head after the headteacher stepped down in 2013.

Grant Taylor declined to respond to TES’ queries, as did Durand Academy Trust’s acting executive headteacher, Mark McLaughlin. Sir Greg also declined to respond.